World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO Director General Says IP Rules Should Provide Even Playing Field to Support Innovation

Geneva, October 1, 2012
PR/2012/722

Opening of the 2012 WIPO Assemblies Video, Opening of the 2012 WIPO Assemblies Video

The determining position of intellectual property (IP) as a driver of innovation and competitive advantage – as evidenced by the growing number of “patent wars” in courts around the world – underlines the need for a rules-based international system aligned with today’s economic and technological realities, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said today. [Speech]

“The position of IP as a battleground for intense competition reinforces the need for a rules-based international system,” Mr. Gurry told delegates at the opening of the annual Assemblies of WIPO member states. “Rules should provide an even playing field and should save us from the temptation to lapse into forms of technological protectionism or mercantilism,” he said.

Mr. Gurry noted the constructive spirit which led to the recent adoption of the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances in June 2012, and expressed hope this would carry over in other ongoing negotiations. In particular, he urged member states to endorse the proposed road map for a new international instrument on improving access to published works for visually impaired and print-disabled. He also called for the conclusion of a new treaty on design law formalities, saying “this is not a substantive treaty, but a business facilitation treaty that simplifies formalities.”

Mr. Gurry also pointed to progress in the ongoing discussions on an international instrument on IP and genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, which he said is “a major priority for the Organization.” While progress has been made over the past two years, Mr. Gurry observed that “there is still some distance to travel” and encouraged member states to work towards “a positive outcome and result at the 2013 Assemblies.”

The Director General said the financial condition of the Organization remains sound despite a challenging external environment, with record levels of use of WIPO’s global systems. The positive results reflect a “shift in the geography of economic and technological production, which has created new sources of growth when traditional sources have been performing less strongly,” Mr. Gurry said. Another reason, he observed, is a greater international approach to patenting, reflecting market globalization.

Further, the increasing demand for WIPO’s services results from the growing consensus around the world that innovation is the foundation of economic success. He cited increasing levels of investment in research and development and the adoption of strategies by all the major economies to improve their innovation ecosystems. “While many parts of a successful innovation ecosystem, such as a good education system, lie beyond the competence of WIPO, IP is an essential part of such an innovation ecosystem. IP captures the economic value of innovation. It provides a secure environment for taking an idea through the complex journey to market commercialization,” he added.

The new innovation environment requires WIPO to respond in new ways to ensure effective capacity building in developing and least developed countries, Mr. Gurry further noted.

In addition to his statement, the Director General presented a detailed written report to the Assemblies on the main achievements of the Organization over the last year PDF, The Year in Review - Director General's Report to the WIPO Assemblies. The WIPO Assemblies are meeting from October 1 to 9, 2012.

The Chairperson of the General Assembly, who is also Serbia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Uglješa Zvekić, highlighted the importance of WIPO’s normative work which, he said, should express a balance among different legitimate needs and interests of its constituency. He urged the Organization to support the development of innovation policies and of capacity building in developing and least developed countries.

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